Tuesday, June 27, 2006

Fully Crewed

Still Pond MD, N39 19.975 W076 28.521, June 27, 2006

Well here we sit in Still Pond, one of our favorite anchorages. The difference is that now we have David (my son) and Bobby (Dave's son) onboard. Wow this is great. Libby has been waiting for more than a year for this day.

Yesterday morning, another Westsail 32, Helen, came past in Georgetown Harbor. She swung around to come back and raft up with us. We swapped Westsail stories with Debb and Bill. They had just launched Helen after working on her for four years in their yard.

Around noon Libby and I went ashore to wait for our noon pickup by Enterprise Rent-A-Car. 12 o'clock past, then 12:30 then 1:00 and still no pickup. I was frantic. I called their office every 10 minutes but there was no answer. Finally I got through to them on the phone. The man there forgot that he was supposed to pick us up. Anyhow, we got started toward Newark Airport almost two hours behind schedule. We were supposed to be there at 17:00, and we actually made it at 17:15. Luckily, Dave's plane was even later than we were. It arrived at 17:40. The reunion was great. By the time we drove back to Maryland, and ate dinner and bought groceries and rowed all the people and cargo out to Tarwathie, it was midnight. We slept well.

This morning when I got up and looked out, there was a sailboat coming into Georgetown with a completely ripped main sail. It had one of those fancy sails that rolls up inside the mast. It appeared that the sail fouled halfway up the mast, but the crew pulled it out anyhow. The bottom third and top third of the sail were deployed while the middle third remained inside the mast. That must have been an expensive mistake, costing the owner as much as $5,000. It is also a reminder of why one doesn't want fancy gadgets for offshore sailing. If the mainsail failed like that at sea, the trip in to get it repaired could be very long indeed.

Today, we had intervals of fair weather and wind interspersed with rain showers. I lost count on how many showers rained on us today, six or seven times. Never mind. Dave and Bobby got a least of taste of sailing on Tarwathie. Dave turned out to be one of those speed daemons. He heeled us over 50 degrees and thought that it was great fun. Bobby wasn't so sure that was fun, so Libby gave the order, "No more heeling more than 20 degrees for the rest of the day." So even if it rains for the rest of the week (which it may do), at least we had some good sailing hours.

Tomorrow we head back to Georgetown and Wednesday night or Thursday morning we'll start driving up to Vermont. Libby and I rented a mooring for Tarwathie so we won't have to worry about her.

Bobby and Dave send regards to Cathy.

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Sunday, June 25, 2006

A Sailor's Joke

The skipper spent an evening of hard drinking with his sailing buddies. After midnight the drunken skipper returned to his boat. He was determined to sneak aboard without waking his wife. He managed to get into the cockpit, opened the hatch and started to climb down the steep ladder. Alas he slipped and fell off the ladder landing on his rear with a whiskey bottle in each back pocket. Still he managed to avoid a scream and there was no sound from his wife.

Wounded from the broken glass, the skipper looked in the full length mirror. His butt was covered with cuts and bleeding profusely. He went into the head, found a full box of band aids and returned to the mirror. With pants around his ankles and bending over to look behind him, the skipper bandaged the cuts one by one until all were covered. Then he snuck into bed and in and was fast asleep in an instant.

The next afternoon the hung over skipper got up and confronted his wife. "You drunken sot, I'm disgusted with you." she said. "But how did you know?" said the skipper, "I didn't make any noise." "Well," said the wife, "It could have been the open companionway hatch. It could have been the blood and the broken glass on the floor. But the final straw was the bandages all over the mirror."

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Saturday, June 24, 2006

Another Repair Day

Still Creek MD, N39 19.975 W076 28.521, June 20, 2006

There's a stationary front near us that's maddening. It is so stationary that I could see it across the bay for much of the day. It constantly threatens rain and we hear thunder. The radio keeps talking about flash floods all around us. Yet, we've remained dry all day yesterday and today. I hope this dang front moves on before David and Bobby get here.

It was also a little bit cooler today. Yesterday I swam five times to cool off but today only twice.

We did an oil change. Cleanest one yet. We're gradually getting better at it. The numerous bottles of transmission leak stopper that I put into the transmission in the past year also appear to have done the job. We now have over 400 hours of engine use with zero decline in the transmission fluid level. I'll keep trying with the main engine. I put one bottle of oil seal conditioner/stop leak in but perhaps repeated treatments will work better. It leaks about a cup of oil,and burns (I think) another quart of oil. per 100 hours.

We also cleaned and did repairs for most of the day. I fixed the batten pocket. Libby cleaned.

Tomorrow we head for Georgetown where I reserved a mooring. Monday at noon Enterprise Rent-a-Car will pick us up and we'll be on the way up to meet Dave and Bobby. I hope that they're not late. There are not much excess hours in our schedule.

There's a big flock of soaring birds here that we have been watching. I counted as many as 23 riding the same updraft. We've been debating about whether they are hawks or eagles or turkey vultures. It's hard to tell when flying. When sitting on a perch their heads look like eagles but their bodies are fatter and rounder than I expect. We have bird book, but it does not have eagles or vultures. How does one tell them apart at a distance? Why is is that we admire eagles so much while we despise vultures. They are both scavengers.

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Thursday, June 22, 2006

100 Degrees

Still Creek MD, N39 19.975 W076 28.521, June 22, 2006

The thermometer says 100 degrees F (38C) there's no wind and it feels very hot.

This morning, anticipating the heat we sailed back south again to Still Creek. The anchorage here is nicer and the water is clean and fine for swimming. Swimming is the only way to escape this heat. I swam twice so far and Libby one. Tonight we'll sleep on deck again.

I haven't managed to transmit email via sailmail and the SSB yet. I'll try tonight with this message.

It's pretty still in Still Creek, but across the bay is the US Army's Aberdeen Proving Ground. They test weapons and munitions there. Both times we sailed by we were startled by numerous very loud explosions. Our son John would love to have a job there. Come to think of it, any red blooded man would love that job. Blowing things up day after day. Come to think of it, our friends in Sweden would love it especially, Swedes seem to have a natural affinity to dynamite, perhaps because of the Nobel connection.

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Wednesday, June 21, 2006


Georgetown MD, N 39 21.825 W 075 53.534, June 21 2006

We came up this creek looking for a place to get a mooring and to get a rental car. The choices are here on the Eastern Shore or Havre De Grace on the Western Shore.

It took me until today to get the new computer working with the SSB radio. The hang up was a driver for the USB to Serial adapter device I have inline. When I installed it, Windows kept asking to search the Internet for a driver. I don't have a net connection out here. I was stymied until I found a CD ROM with the driver in my archives. Whew.

When we got here I reserved a mooring for next week, and also a rental car. I was shocked at the price of the car. Last year I rented a car from Enterprise at Jacksonville for $18/day. Now they want to charge me $60/day from a nearby town. Not much I can do about it, Enterprise is the only one who will pick me up from the marina which is about 35 miles from the rental office.

Met a couple of cruisers from Scotland in the harbor. They've been cruising for 3 years including one year in the Mediterranean. I asked if they ever heard of the village of Tarwathie in Scotland. Alas, they said, "No."

Tuesday, June 20, 2006

Still Creek

Still Creek MD, N39 19.975 W076 28.521, June 20, 2006

No wind today; we had to motor the whole time. Up past Annapolis, past the Bay Bridge, nearly up to The Sassafras River.

Still Creek is a very nice little anchorage, quiet and well sheltered. There are about a half dozen sailboats here.

The people from the neighboring boat came over to talk. They only sail locally so when they heard where we've been they said, "Wow." It helps remind us how lucky we are to be living the dream that so many other people dream about.

Libby and continued to debate all day about the place to stay to meet David. The Chesapeake? NJ? Even Rhode Island? In the end I won. We'll stay in the Chesapeake. The main reason is that it is so much nicer here than those other places.

Tonight we're going to sleep up on deck under the stars. I don't know why we haven't done that before. We just didn't think of it I guess.

Monday, June 19, 2006

A Reminder About Fire Hazards

Rhodes River, N 38 52.481 W 076 31.369, June 19, 2006

Well we had a great long weekend with Jerry and Phyllis. It is a great pleasure to be wired once again. Thank you Jerry for the suggestion and for your help in getting me wired.

Now it's time to head north in preparation to meet David and Bobby next weekend. They're flying into Newark NJ. We're going to pick them up at the airport and sail for a day or two, then drive them to Vermont to see their friends and the rest of the family.

Libby was pushing for us to be somewhere in the neighborhood of Newark before they arrive. We could sail from Sandy Hook NJ, or Long Island sound. However, I pooh poohed that idea. I'd rather show them a place with natural beauty and with the fewer people the better. The Chesapeake is better for that purpose. Exactly where we'll stop is not yet decided, but somewhere in the Northeast corner of the bay.

Today the weather forecast said S 5-10 knots, but it actually was SW 10-20 knots and a fine sailing day. We stopped this afternoon just short of Annapolis because a thunderstorm was heading our way. We got anchored and secured just minutes before the lightning and the rain started.

There was some excitement en route. On the VHF radio we heard the drama of a sailboat near Choptank Light that was on fire. The skipper called the Coast Guard, then he jumped overboard. We were 11 miles away, too far to assist. However, luckily for the skipper there were numerous closer boats that saw the dense black smoke and the flames from the sailboat and rushed to assist. Within about 10 minutes the skipper was picked up by a power boat. He's OK. His sailboat however, presumably burned to the waterline and sank. I wonder how the fire started?

Few nightmares are as scary as fire aboard a boat, except fire aboard and aircraft. We carry no gasoline on Tarwathie, but we do use propane and lamp oil. I also store mineral oil and a spray can of WD-40 in the cabin. I remember when David made a potato cannon fueled by WD-40 as the explosive.

We have a remotely operated solenoid valve that shuts off the propane gas back in the stern. If there is a propane leak back there, it drains out a hole in the stern. We have an automatic Halon fire extinguisher in the engine compartment, an ABC extinguisher in the cabin and another one in the starboard lazarette. We also keep a spray can of fire suppressant stuff in the companionway. It is liquid and there is less reluctance to use that to put out a small fire than there would be to shoot off an extinguisher filled with that nasty powder. Finally, all wiring downstream of the battery bank switch and the buss bars is fused. The battery bank switch is walled off from the engine compartment and from the distribution busses. The main batteries are gel-cell construction, and they do not leak acid if tipped.

If volatiles leaked into the bilge and exploded, I don't think much would happen. There is only 2 or 3 cubic feet of volume in the bilge and it is covered by a hatch with a heavy toolbox and stairs holding it shut.

In the port side lazarette is my paint locker where several hazardous chemicals are stored. However, I store most them in 5 gallon plastic pails with tightly sealed lids. There are a few bottles of WD-40, alcohol, fuel treatment, and paint that don't fit in the pails. The lazarette vents to the engine compartment.

I guess the one thing missing is periodic fire drills. I'll think about that.

Jerry's Pictures

Dick asked me to post a few of the many pictures I took while enjoying a great weekend with him, Libby and Tarwathie in the beautiful Chesapeake last weekend. I also want to take this opportunity to thank the skipper and his first mate for another wonderful weekend (Phyllis and I never needed wind to thoroughly enjoy a weekend with them) and to correct a statement he made in today's blog. I have known Dick and Libby for more than 40 years and have never had any doubt that either one of them could do anything they put their mind to - including making serious repairs to the mainsheet rigging under fairly heavy seas and wind. One more comment about Dick's statement that I enjoy speed. I was so into it when I left Sunday I got a ticket for going 78 in a 55 mph zone on the Baltimore Beltway on the way home. That wasn't nearly as much fun as doing 6 knots windward on Tarwathie! Thanks again old friends.

Sunday, June 18, 2006


Our friend June on Albion took this picture of Tarwathie as seen from her boat. As you can see, we're anchored close by. Posted by Picasa

Saturday, June 17, 2006

Fulfillment Day

Solomons MD, N 38 20.373 W 076 27.555

Today was fulfillment day for Jerry. Poor Jerry and Phyllis drove from Syracuse to Sacandaga Lake three times, to Plattsburg one time and to Maryland one time, all to go sailing with us. Jerry loves to sail, he loves to heel the boat over and to go fast. Well, on all those other trips, we were skunked for wind when Jerry and Phyllis were with us. That included yesterday. Well patience pays off and today the forecast for 5-10 knot light winds was wrong. We had 15 knots or better out on the bay. Tarwathie loved it and Jerry loved it even more.

We sailed from the Western Shore to the Eastern Shore, to the Western Shore, then to the Eastern Shore again, then back to Solomons. The Chesapeake bay is big so a shore-to-shore passage is a long way. It turned out to be a great day. Congratulations Jerry, you finally got what you wanted.

On the way out Jerry remarked on the bent and rusty pin I had anchoring the mainsheet to the traveller. He wondered how long it would last. I said, "Don't worry. It is a temporary clevis I bought in Home Depot. It is not meant for marine use, but it has been in there for a whole year and it hasn't broken yet. Besides I have spare clevis pins standing by to fix it when it breaks." Sure enough, you guessed it, about an hour later we jibed and the old pin broke. The loose boom went swinging out to its extreme carrying the mainsheet blocks with it. I was a model of cool headedness. "Turn into the wind," I said. We did, and I lowered the main sail. That got things under control. We resumed sailing back under foresail only. Then I went below and in only 10 seconds I located the spare clevis pins.

The only problem was that I couldn't get the old pin out. When I grabbed it with pliers it broke off. When I tried to drive it out with a hammer and a punch it was stuck. Never fear. I got out my electric drill and a bit, and plugged it in to the inverter. Bzzzz. In a minute I had drilled out the old pin and in another minute I had the replacement pin installed, secured with a split ring and wrapped in white vinyl tape. Wow. Even Click and Clack couldn't have accomplished an on-the-fly repair so slickly. Jerry and Phyllis would have been dazzled with my brilliance except that they know me and they read my blog about oil changes and other such things.

Tonight we went out to dinner with Jerry and Phyllis. We went to a BBQ place and ordered racks of ribs and BBQ chicken. Good thing we didn't have any vegetarians with us tonight. They would have been grossed out by our carnivore's feast.

Tomorrow, Jerry and Phyllis have to head north again to return to work drudgery again. I think they envy us. Libby and I make good salespeople for the retired life. So far it's been very good for us.

Next item on our agenda, sail north to find a suitable place to leave the boat and rent a car to drive up to Newark to pick up David and Bobby at the airport. We also need a day to drive to Washington DC to visit Shawky Hammam, my professor from Clarkson. He wants to see me to give me a lecture -- "You see. This life you have chosen to sail at sea is very dangerous. Don't you want to choose something safer?"

Friday, June 16, 2006

Wired Again!

Solomons MD, N38 20.338 W076 27.571

Today we met with our friends Jerry and Phyllis from Syracuse. They drove all the way down here to go sailing with us. We're honored. Unfortunately, there was almost no wind today. That seems to happen almost every time Jerry and Phyllis come.

Oh well, we had a great day anyhow. We sailed (motored actually) up the Patuxuent River to a place called Sotterly Plantation. That is a place settled in 1717. It has a lovely mansion, and beautiful gardens and grounds. It was bought by J.P. Morgan and his descendents so it had to be nice to attract such people. We toured the grounds and took a guided tour of the 300 year old mansion house.

Jerry did me a great favor. He's been reading on my blog about the woes about my computer. He said that they had laptops on sale for $500 at circuit City and he offered to buy one for me and to bring it down. The thing he didn't know is that my other computer was returned from Averatec Repair. This time however, Jenny tested it before shipping it to me. It failed again. That's the second time it was returned and it still didn't work. I shipped it back while I'm arguing with Averatec if they'll repair it or give me a new one.

Anyhow, Jerry's offer was so gracious and so timely I accepted. Jerry bought the computer and brought it down. I just turned it on for the first time and in less than 30 seconds I was connected to the Internet via WiFi. Ah, what a pleasure to be wired again. I've really missed writing my blog daily. There were many stories I would like to have told. Now I can start writing again. Thank you Jerry.

When my other computer gets back I'll have two. One for use and one for backup. This new one has an extended warranty from circuit City. It offers a one-time complete replacement no questions asked. Therefore, if I drop it in the water (or should I say when I drop it?), I'll have to make sure to dive down and retrieve it, so that I can exchange it for a new one no questions asked.

Monday, June 12, 2006


Cambridge Public Library

We sailed up to Annapolis on Friday and took a mooring buoy belonging to the City Marina. That put us right in the heart of Annapolis' downtown and tourist center. There were thousands of tourists everywhere.

Our first stop (after showers at the marina) was to the famous Fawcett store where they sell all things marine. It is famous among boaters and it is reputed to have more things in stock than even West Marine. We did pick up some hard to find items that we've been looking for for a while. We bought replacement 8w fluorescent bulbs and a replacement for a broken sail batten. Looking around though I noted several items I recognize that were priced 75% higher than West Marine. Since West Marine is already 30 to 50% higher in price than other suppliers, I decided to shop as little as possible at Fawcetts. I should have expected it because Fawcetts has valet parking.

Next we walked over to the US Naval Academy. We walked around the campus and visited the museum. It was very impressive. I was impressed by the artifacts of so many famous people, John Paul Jones, Halsey, Rickover, Nimitz and many more.

The next morning Libby and I walked all around the historic district. It is like Schenectady's Stockade on steroids. The houses were not only historic and not only had Washington slept there, but also Jefferson, Madison, Franklin and the others. They not only slept there but they agreed to form the constitutional convention. That's really historic.

Saturday afternoon we sailed south again heading to meet Gerry and Phyllis later in the week. It was a splendid day with 25 knot winds, warm and sunny. There were hundreds of sailboats coming out of Annapolis.

Libby and I decided that we're not much for cities. Even cities reputed to be the sailing capital. We are gunkholers (see below). However, we also agreed that we much admire the sailors in Annapolis. They really use their boats, and they are expert sailors.

Unfortunately, that same afternoon, one of the boats we admired lost its skipper. The 72 year old skipper, publisher of the Annapolis newspaper, was sailing alone. He disappeared and they still haven't found his body. What a shame.

Yesterday we worked on repainting the non-skid surfaces on deck. We can only do half at once, because we live aboard and we need some surface to walk on.

Today is the first really rainy day we've seen since leaving New York last October. Wow. I guess it really has been dry for the southwest US.

Gunkhole A shallow cove or channel nearly unnavigable because of mud, rocks, or vegetation.

Gunkholer A species of boater that is inexorable drawn to gunkholes in search of seclusion, adventure, wildlife - or just by an ungovernable urge to see what's around the next bend. Gunkholers are readily identified by their lack of concern at running aground.

Wednesday, June 07, 2006


Cambridge, MD Public Library

We sailed over to the eastern shore. We're enroute to Annapolis.

We stayed two nights in La Trappe Creek. According to the guide books, it is the best anchorage in the whole Chesapeake. That's saying a lot. Anyhow, I can't vouch for it being the absolute best, but is was wonderful and beautiful. Evening near dusk is especially pretty and peaceful in the Chesapeake. The scenery is nice, the temperature is nice, the wind is still, and the birds and the water life all come alive. I see how one could become addicted to this place.

Our alternator failed and I failed to notice it before the batteries went dead. I had to call on Sea Tow to come and give us a jump start. Since I'm a Sea Tow member, it didn't cost me anything. After getting started we motored over to Cambridge and put in at the municipal marina. They have shore power that I used to keep the batteries charged while running the freezer as I did my repairs.

My repair was successful, and I didn't buy a new alternator. It charges OK now. My confidence as a diesel mechanic is slowly building. The only problem is that I'm skeptical of the strength of my repair. I suspect that it will fail again someday.

Cambridge seems like a very pleasant city. One of hundreds of nice places to explore in the Chesapeake. We could spend years here exploring.

We'll soon have company. Our friends Gerry and Phyllis from Syracuse are coming down to meet us at Solomons MD and sail with us for a long weekend. After that, Dave and Bobby are coming down from Alaska. Dave couldn't get a connection to D.C. so he has a ticket to Newark (EWR) I'll rent a car and drive up to get him. We'll try to get Tarwathie up near Baltimore, or perhaps Cape May before they get here to make the trip easier.

Saturday, June 03, 2006


The Solomons, N38 20 W76 28

Here at the Solomons are a couple of creeks that provide excellent anchorages. Not only that, the shores are lined with numerous marinas and boatyards. Not only that, ashore there is a nearby grocery, a laundromat and a West Marine Store. What more could a person wish for?

Not only that, our friends Chris and June on Albion are staying here. We anchored near them and we had a couple of nice evenings swapping cruising stories. That was lots of fun. Right now, I'm using their computer to post this blog.

From here, we have to choose whether to go up the Potomac to Washington DC, or up to Annaoplis. We have nearly 3 weeks until David and Bobby fly down from Alaska, so maybe we could do both.

We found a place so picturesque that it bests anything else I've ever seen while cruising. It is Tangier Island. The island is populated by Crab Fishermen. The streets are wide enough for golf carts. The families bury their dead in the front yard. Most people on the island belong to the Parks family or the Crockett family or the Pruitt family. Most interesting, the locals speak a dialect of English so strong that it's hard to understand them. It is said to be Elizabethan in orgin. I have lots of pictures. I'll post them when I get my computer back.